Compounds extracted from the cannabis plant (cannabinoids) have therapeutic proprieties that could be used to treat several skin conditions, including psoriasis, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.
In the U.S., about 1 in 10 adult cannabis consumers use the drug for medical reasons under comprehensive medical cannabis programs. Cannabinoids have been shown to have potential therapeutic proprieties for the treatment of nausea, chronic pain, and anorexia. These compounds have also been investigated by scientists as anticancer therapies.
More recently, researchers started to explore the potential of cannabinoids to treat a range of dermatological conditions, such as pruritus (severe itching), psoriasis, eczema, inflammatory skin disease, and melanoma.
In the study titled “The role of cannabinoids in dermatology,” the authors reviewed and summarized the available scientific literature on the therapeutic effects of cannabinoids on skin diseases.
“There are topical cannabinoid drugs with little or no psychotropic effect that can be used for skin disease,” Robert Dellavalle, senior author of the study and associate professor of dermatology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, said in a press release.
In addition to reported beneficial effects cannabinoids have on reducing and even eliminating severe itching, these compounds have demonstrated potent anti-inflammatory and anti-proliferative effects.
“Perhaps the most promising role for cannabinoids is in the treatment of itch,” Dellavalle said.
Topical application of a compound called tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, was seen to reduce swelling and inflammation in animal models of skin allergic reactions. This effect was caused by a reduction of the immune response, with associated improvement of the skin barrier function.
But these compounds can also be useful for treatment of psoriasis. Cannabinoids such as THC, cannabidiol, cannabinol, and cannabigerol were found to inhibit the proliferation of skin cells (keratinocytes). In combination with their anti-inflammatory activities, these compounds may represent a potential therapy for patients with psoriasis.
Many of these findings resulted from experimental and preclinical studies. Additional large-scale clinical studies are necessary to confirm these beneficial effects in humans with skin diseases.
“These diseases cause a lot of problems for people and have a direct impact on their quality of life,” Dellavalle said. “Treatments are currently being bought over the internet and we need to educate dermatologists and patients about the potential uses of them.”